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Concerns about finances, fairness dominate debate over EBR teacher stipend

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BATON ROUGE - While a final decision will be made later this month, members of the East Baton Rouge Parish School System's Committee of the Whole were not able to agree Thursday on a recommendation for the proposed $2,000 stipend for classroom teachers and librarians.

Superintendent Sito Narcisse proposed the one-time bonus to boost morale and increase retention.

To qualify for the payment, should it be approved, there are several criteria to be met, including being an active, full-time employee from October 21, 2021, through April 22, 2022, missing 20 or fewer days in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, and being a classroom teacher with a roster or a librarian.

Some said the current proposal leaves out too many school employees, including support staff.

"Our bus drivers and our cafeteria workers have been right alongside us doing extra hard work, " said Paige Colwell, a teacher at McKinley Middle Magnet School. "Working far more manual labor than what we do. I'm not saying that anyone is more important than the other, but we all work as a team. I don't think it's OK that they're getting excluded this time."

Last year, the board approved a $1,300 one-time stipend for full-time employees.

The current proposal would cost the district $8 million and would come from the general fund, though that received some pushback at Thursday's meeting.

While Narcisse cites a morale boost in his push for the payments, some board members argue the current pitch could do the exact opposite.

"There is nothing that is a greater morale killer than to say publicly, 'we're giving you guys a bonus, but only you guys and everybody else doesn't get one,'" said board member Connie Bernard, who represents District 8.

Several ideas to alter the proposal were thrown around, including making more employees eligible for the payment and using federal COVID-19 money to cover the costs, a move some seemed to signal was not possible.

While no one argued that teachers and librarians don't deserve the stipends, some raised concerns about finances and fairness.

The committee, which includes all the members of the school board, chose not to make a recommendation. When the board meets next, members say they hope to have more information about the possibilities and potential problems of some of the payment proposals.

With a district-wide compensation study yet to be complete, some argued the longer it takes to finalize the payment, the less effective one will be, especially on retention.

"The danger is that some teachers may make other plans for the next school year," said board member Mark Bellue, who represents District 1.


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